Apigenin is a natural compound found in many fruits and vegetables. While its full effects in humans have been barely figured out, there is some preliminary evidence that apigenin can help calm nerves, provide antioxidant effects, and even help fight cancer.
Apigenin is an antioxidant compound that naturally occurs in plants. It can be found in fruits and vegetables, such as parsley, onions, oranges, tea, chamomile, wheat sprouts, and some seasonings. Outside of its biological effects, it is a yellow crystalline that is typically used to dye garments.
Its effects in animals have been thoroughly studied, while few human studies testing this substance exist. Nevertheless, preliminary research on apigenin has observed potential anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anticancer properties.
In a clinical trial on 57 people with generalized anxiety disorder, a German chamomile extract standardized to 1.2% apigenin reduced anxiety symptoms. In a further trial on the same population, the extract also improved depression in all the patients [1, 2].
Two clinical trials testing an apigenin-containing extract on the same population and some animal and cell-based research are insufficient to support the use of apigenin for anxiety and depression until more clinical research is conducted.
In mice, topical apigenin improved skin permeability barrier function by promoting skin cell growth and the production of fatty molecules and antimicrobial proteins. This suggests it may help with conditions characterized by permeability barrier dysfunction such as atopic dermatitis .
Only one clinical trial and some animal and cell-based research back this potential use of apigenin. Further clinical research is required to confirm their preliminary results.
In a small trial on 16 people, a black pepper-based beverage reduced appetite but had no effects on blood sugar and thyroid hormone levels. A chemical analysis revealed several apigenin derivatives among its active compounds .
Mice with high NAD+ levels are better protected against obesity, while those with low NAD+ levels are more likely to be obese. Apigenin increased NAD+ levels and benefitted glucose and fat regulation in obese mice .
A small trial testing an apigenin-containing beverage and 2 studies in mice cannot be considered sufficient evidence to claim that apigenin helps with weight loss. Larger, more robust clinical research testing this compound alone is needed.
In a clinical trial on 72 people suffering from migraine without aura, a chamomile oil gel with 0.233 mg/g apigenin reduced pain and other migraine symptoms (nausea, and discomfort caused by light and sounds) .
Apigenin prevented IBD and lung inflammation and scarring in mice by blocking pro-inflammatory pathways .
Apigenin blocked the cellular processes that cause the infectious heart inflammation (endocarditis) in heart cells .
Mechanisms by which apigenin may reduce inflammation include:
Although the animal and cell-based research is promising, only one clinical trial has evaluated the role of apigenin (as an ingredient of a chamomile gel) in pain and inflammation management. More clinical trials testing apigenin alone are needed to confirm these preliminary findings.
In a clinical trial on 87 people who underwent the surgical removal of colon tumors or polyps, a flavonoid mixture with 20 mg apigenin and 20 mg epigallocatechin gallate was associated with a lower development of colorectal tumors .
Apigenin inhibited androgen-producing enzymes in test tubes, suggesting its potential use to treat prostate cancer .
Taken together, the evidence is insufficient to conclude that apigenin helps in cancer prevention. The human studies had mainly negative results, and those showing anticancer activity were mostly done in cells.
Many substances have anticancer effects in cells, including downright toxic chemicals like bleach. This doesn’t mean that they have any medical value. On the contrary, most substances (natural or synthetic) that are researched in cancer cells fail to pass further animal studies or clinical trials due to a lack of safety or efficacy.
In mice and rats recovering from strokes, apigenin glucopyranoside (a subtype of apigenin) improved neurological outcomes and reduced brain cell death .
An herbal extract with apigenin (Saturin) also lowered blood sugar levels in rats and caused no adverse effects .
Apigenin accelerated bone tissue healing in dogs .
In rats with an enlarged heart caused by high blood pressure, apigenin decreased blood pressure, heart weight, heart weight index, and free fatty acid levels .
Keep in mind that the safety profile of apigenin is relatively unknown, given the lack of well-designed clinical studies. The list of side effects below is not a definite one and you should consult your doctor about other potential side effects based on your health condition and possible drug or supplement interactions.
In clinical trials, adverse effects were rare and mild. They included digestive discomfort (oral chamomile extract) and skin reactions (topical chamomile gel). Because the trials didn’t use pure apigenin, these effects could have been caused by any other chamomile compounds [41, 11].
Importantly, apigenin has estrogenic activity. Women with a history of estrogen-responsive cancers or on hormone replacement therapy should be especially cautious with apigenin and consult with their doctors before supplementing with this flavonoid [42, 43].
While no toxicity studies have been conducted in humans, high apigenin doses (100mg/kg) caused liver damage in rats .
Since apigenin is not absorbed well, users recommend consuming it from ‘whole’ plant sources. For instance, parsley contains 45 mg/g apigenin .
Commercial apigenin-containing extracts include:
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